Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dad's Chill Out

I’ve just got back from a narrow-boat trip on Birmingham canals organised by Sure Start. I was invited as I am part of a dad’s group that chill out at our local Family Centre every Thursday. I didn’t get to the group last week but I understand that they’ve started to renovate an old piano. Now Callie is full time at nursery I missed her coming along on the trip and I’m sure some of the others did too. But never mind, today Callie is having fun on an adventure with the Nursery in Wonderland in Telford.

At last I managed to catch up with Matt at Sure Start and get my certificate from the positive parenting course that I completed before half term with the dad’s group. The point of the course was to discuss some practical methods of behaviour management of toddlers. It was a very good six week course talking about ways of building good relationships in our family, not alienating or harming our children yet at the same time not letting them run riot.

I’m looking forward to seeing the group again next week. Now, I wonder if they remembered to buy the playing cards and poker chips?

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Family Service

Sorry not to have posted to this blog for a while but it’s been eyes down working on preparation for college – lots of PowerPoint presentations, gapped handouts and activities as well as preparing for the Family Service at church. College preparation never ends but the Family Service is now over and it went well.

A Family Service simply means that rather than going to Sunday school, the kids will be in and maybe take part, so it needs to keep their attention. Continuing our series in Nehemiah, Nettes & I were given some passages in the middle of the book full of names. So how did we manage it?

Of course everything was on PowerPoint but I think the key was an edited paraphrase come commentary that was performed by three readers alternating lines. This was split into a few very short sections that were interspersed with exhortations, songs and a couple of activities.

One activity was based around Operation Christmas Child which we as a church are supporting and another involved making a family tree of the church. Very simply people wrote names of someone who had influenced them in their spiritually journey and stuck the leaves on a painting of a tree as a representation of our spiritual genealogy. A very moving experience.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Time with God

Last weekend our church had what we call a ‘Time with God’ weekend. We have our building open for prayer for something like 18-24 hours from Friday night to sometime on Saturday. We have three rooms you can use and the idea is that you book a room for an hour or so or more. The rooms are laid out with a candle, supplies of Christian music and flip chart paper and markers to use how we want. I find it exciting and it enables me to create a wonderful atmosphere for prayer. During this time, among other things, I was drawn to read Luke 10, to pray about our impact on the local community and to contemplate what my part might be. I was particularly blessed this time as there were also some art materials available. So I was able to prayerfully sketch a representation of our neighbourhood with the blessing ‘Peace to this House’ and blu-tac it on the wall.

BTW last Thursday we began our new monthly prayer meetings. And we had some really good prayer activities. I do get the feeling we are moving forward as a church in prayer. Praise God!

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Teaching and Learning

I can’t make the staff development that we’ve got this week at college focusing on using IT in teaching. But I have been reading this article about a school in Australia that is really pioneering in this respect. I’ve got to work on using my PowerPoint presentations to keep my students attention. This year is quite a challenge teaching in the sixth form especially the GCSE groups. I’m experimenting with different activities and finding some work a little better than others. It’s not always easy to get teenagers to work in groups or even to listen to me never mind each other.

I suppose this is all part of relating to a different culture. It makes me realise that not everyone will want to listen to someone talking for 45 minutes – especially if they have not had much success in that mode of education. I think this has important implications for the teaching in the church. Role on the day when we’ve got a much greater variety of activities including fun creative things to do in meetings and ICT teaching that can be accessed anywhere. Surely such activities would attract and motivate a much wider audience.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mp4s of Celebration 2006

I’ve just been looking at the mp4s of Lifelink’s conference Celebration 2006 on their website. I was inspired by Jim Munson in his leadership seminar talked about the trans-generational church as a relay race. He spoke of passing on faith for the next generation will see greater things than we have. I am itching to see the future the better ideas and visions of which he speaks. I want to inherit what previous generations have prayed for, to practice holiness and take the message to the world. How can we do this? Well…

Alan Scotland mentioned the internet. He pointed out the dangers of escaping the real world to play and chat with anonymity. Yet he also talked about the great opportunity we as Christian have to influence the world for good. Gary Finkbeiner spoke of the importance of how we understand the truth. And Ian Rawley underlined this and also criticised on our culture’s tendency to value tolerance. Interestingly, I am just reading Steve Chalke’s new book ‘Intelligent Church’ which gives a counterpoint to this, by saying that tolerance does not imply agreement but rather a confidence and security to leave others to choose their own way.

Anyway, it's good to see the speakers and to have edited highlights of this conference. Mp4s are a great facility.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006


I’m just exploring ebible at the moment. Though it contains search facilities and resources such as commentaries what looks most interesting is the way that we can share bookmarks and comments on this system. I’m still getting my head around it but it looks like its potential is to be more of a social network like for instance flickr. So you can look at what other people especially those you’ve nominated in your community are saying about particular verses or passages. It refers to itself as a web 2.0 application. The web 2.0 philosophy is to use the internet much more interactively rather than placing content there that someone might view in the future. So blogs are web 2.0 whereas your standard website with lots of articles would be web 1.0. At college we have a virtual learning environment called moodle which also appears to run on this philosophy. It’s not just about giving access to courses online but also enabling your learners to discuss and debate about the material and enable others to learn from them as well as from the resources. Anyway, why not have a look at this web 2.0 ebible and tell me what you think?

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Sunday, September 17, 2006


As a church we have just started a teaching series on Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s job was to restore the city walls of Jerusalem. Interestingly – many years before Nehemiah – Zerubabbel had rebuilt the temple. We can read about that in the book of Ezra. This can be seen as a symbol of the restoration of the church. Perhaps now is it the time to go beyond the vision of restoring the church to also restoring our city, by Christians having an influence in society.

As I read through the book of Nehemiah these ten questions occurred to me:

1.How can we be like Nehemiah who honestly looked at Jerusalem’s walls in ruins yet, like Jesus, with a burdened heart and bended knee was utterly dependant on God?

2.How can we have a clear vision to purposefully work hard to transform our city?

3.How can we as a church community work together in mission to accomplish this?

4.How can we handle criticism, discouragement and even persecution when it comes our way?

5.What can we do to stand for peace, justice and liberation politically and be inclusive, welcoming and generous personally?

6.How can we encourage diverse participation and creativity among our church to these ends?

7.As Nehemiah called people to return to God's word how can we return to these ancient ways and yet communicate them in ways that are relevant today?

8.How can we be honest and vulnerable practitioners of God’s word?

9.As we celebrate our festivals how can we both look back and take hold of the future?

10.How can we identify with Nehemiah and with Jesus?

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Greenbelt - part two

Greenbelt Communion
Originally uploaded byJude Adam.
Last Sunday at Greenbelt we watched the Communion service, with cups of chai, on the big screen in the arena overflow. The Israelites fleeing from Egypt was interpreted in terms of liberation with political implications for today. In the afternoon I went to a meeting that looked at the lamenting and imprecatory psalms where we were encouraged to bring to God our anger from hurts and injustice. I then explored the installations in the New Forms Café, listened in on an impressive short all age service there and visited the labyrinth. After all that I met Nettes and Callie for a meal at the Performance Café. This time we heard the haunting vocals of Levi Weaver who IMHO musically was the best I heard all weekend.

Monday was a Callie day. We looked round the exhibition stalls and bookshop in the mud but thankfully undercover from most of the rain. In the afternoon we went to a Godly Play session to see some of the wonderful resources that this children’s ministry offers. Finally it was off to some children’s theatre with Callie. Exhausted by the evening all three of us went back to our tent realising that we had never bothered to go to the mainstage.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Greenbelt - part one

Teepee village
Originally uploaded by Roger Saner.
Last weekend we went to Greenbelt. We got up early and arrived at Cheltenham racecourse just after the opening time and there were already thousands of people there - even a few in teepees. In the evening I went to a PowerPoint workshop at the Tank – Greenbelt’s cyber-café – for some tips on technique. And then I dropped into the New Forms Café for a snack, with worship happening in the background. My destination was a gig by Fuse Factory – whose fast paced video-jockeyed images had me transfixed. Projecting on gossamer meant that their singer could walk into and behind images.

I started Saturday early with Celtic style worship from Wild Goose interspersed with contemporary stories of slavery from Christian Aid. Later I went to short session by Revelation – a DJ/dance outfit from Bristol – that used songs that we sing at our church... club style. After lunch in the New Forms Café I had a chance to get a coffee and network with a very wide variety of people involved in creative worship. I had to pick up Callie from her children’s meeting just as we were going to have communion. In the evening I joined in a beautiful Taize worship session that included a very moving few minutes of silence.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Off to Greenbelt

We’re off to Greenbelt again this year. There are some very impressive mainstage acts such as Kevin Max (from DC talk), Martin Joseph, and All Star United not to mention Randy Stonehill relegated to a lesser stage! It’s a pity T-Bone Burnett has pulled out. Mike Rimmer recommended him to me as a must see act. Last year we found that the performance café was a good place to eat. I like the sound of the artists that are playing there this year such as Levi Weaver, Note for a Child and Shawn McDonald. But I am very interested that the new forms worship venue this year is referred to as New Forms Café. It looks like a really good place to hang out in order to experience some creative worship experiences. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to start the day with Noel Moules with the Burn Band – a vineyard worship group – but it does look good. Nettes has got a few acts she wants to take Callie too but I think Callie will also get a couple of sessions in the children’s area leaving us both free to explore. Perhaps we’ll see the stilt walker or the acrobats. I’ll let you know how we get on.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

The Miracles of Jesus

On Sunday evening I recorded the first part of this new three part BBC One docudrama: The Miracles of Jesus. I was very impressed. Rather than trying to give other explanations for the miracles it actually looked at what the miracles would have meant to the people of the first centaury. I felt that it was very cleverly scripted so that it would appeal to those of us who believe that the miracles were historical fact but at the same time not to alienate those that didn’t. But it was not the denouncing of the fact of the miracles that I feared it would be. Interestingly, the presenter said that the scholarly emphasis is moving away from this towards what he was presenting that was really a biblical exposition of the miracles that was very evangelical in its approach. Jesus miracles were references to or re-enactments of many of the miracles that had already occurred in the Bible. The feeding of the 5000 echoed the manna in the desert. The walking on water echoed Joshua crossing the Jordon. But other miracles like the calming of storm said even more pointing to Jesus actually being divine. I’m setting my video again to record part two this week.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Holy Spirit

Last Sunday I actually got our churches main meeting. In the last few weeks I’ve been I’ve either been on Sunday school, crèche or visiting friends. All of which I’ve enjoyed very much and I’ve not felt like I’m missing out. But it is good to get back home, as it were.

Anyway, during our worship a number of us were bringing our prepared and spontaneous contributions in prophecy and prayer. These are precious times for us as a community of those baptised in the Holy Spirit to use these gifts. During this time the Holy Spirit clearly encouraged us to reawaken the visions he has given us in the past and that with his power we can accomplish them

It was also good to then hear Mike Rimmer speak from John 14 on how the Holy Spirit is to us now as Jesus was to the first disciples. He is there to answer our difficult questions and to lead us into peace. Mike encouraged us to allow the Holy Spirit into all our lives – not just church life overcoming the sacred and secular divide.

It’s good to be reminded in so many ways of the importance of our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

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Friday, July 21, 2006


On Tuesday I went to the ‘Blah!’ tour at Birmingham Cathedral hosted by the Church Missionary Society that was looking into a new grassroots movement that is emerging that calls itself the Emerging Church. Not that I am thinking of defecting at all, I hasten to add! I feel that we as charismatics with apostolic links are in an extremely good place with God. Yet I do think it is good to look at what is happening around the body of Christ to see what we can learn from it to bring back to our own churches.

Ryan Bolger co-author of the book Emerging Churches outlined the findings from his research about how many churches are revising their practices in attempts to be more relevant to their culture. The churches that he looked at the US & UK are investigating their own culture and getting everyone involved in designing new ways of outworking the New Testament in today’s world. I felt that there is much that they are doing resonated with our own values as a church: the emphasis on following Jesus not just as saviour but as a role model, hospitality, community, kingdom, etc.

I feel that an emphasis that is relatively new to us that we can learn from this movement is the importance of creativity reflecting God as a creator. For instance, this was illustrated in the worship sessions by the use of spoken mediations over ambient background music with some enthralling video images. Anxieties about dodgy theology were alleviated by the assurance from those presenting stories from their churches that they are expressing the historic faith just in different ways. One leader Karen Ward explained how her church is using both ancient traditions and contemporary styles in their worship but only as far as they felt that these were consistent with Christ.

I think, used sensitively and with discernment, creative elements such as these could be a way forward.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Eastern Bride

I just heard that Open Doors have won an award for this film that brings attention to the restrictions on Christians expressing their faith in both China and the Middle East. It is a drama about two westerners who travel to these parts of the world and experience these effects first hand. By all accounts it is a stunning film.

I am impressed generally by the work of Open Doors in promoting awareness of how the Christian church is persecuted throughout the world. There is plenty of information on their sites. Hopefully these are stimulated us in the relatively persecution free parts of the world to pray for Christians who are suffering. As well as moving into action those who might otherwise have stood by and allowed these things to happen.

I am thrilled that in our church we now has an Open Doors rep. A few weeks ago in our small group we had an excellent time learning about the situation in China and praying for Christians there.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Extreme Prophetic

When we were in Winchester our friends told us about this website. Extreme Prophetic contains teachings and stories about what is happening in the churches that relate to Patricia King’s ministry based in America. The most intriguing part of this are a few videos that relate to a phenomena of gemstones being found apparently miraculously. There is an account of one man finding a number of gemstones in his garden while having a vision of an angel placing them there for him. There is a shot of him finding it. These videos are part of a sort of video blog of Patricia’s. These are all very recent phenomena. Patricia relates it to a prophecy about God doing miracles this summer. Apparently they’ve just had a big conference where people began to find smaller gemstones on the floor where they were meeting. The hard evidence appears to rule out mass hallucination – of course it could all be a fake – but these appear to be godly Christian people who want to give all the glory to God.

Please have a look and let me know what you think of it.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

A Healing Trend?

Nettes and Callie were on holiday this week in the Isle of Wight with a very good friend of Callie’s (with her mummy too) but I was still at work. I've been reading about Jesus sending out the disciples to heal and preach and getting excited about stories such as this one. A Christian stall for talking to people about faith and to pray for them by laying-on-of-hands... at a new age festival!

I went to meet Nettes and Callie at the weekend in Winchester where we stayed with some old friends of Nettes. We went with everyone to Winchester Family Church with which we were very impressed. Callie enjoyed the Sunday school for pre-schoolers.

The church is part of New Frontiers and is cast in traditional charismatic style but nowadays of course the preacher uses PowerPoint. There was plenty of praying for the sick in response to specific words from God and a couple of testimonies to healings that occurred during that time. The general feeling was that this was something that was an increasing trend.

How did I feel about all this? Well I’d love to do a stint on a stall like the one I’d been reading about during the week.

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Monday, July 03, 2006


During one of the special times Nettes and I get together to pray in more creative ways that we have dubbed our Sacred Space we were writing out phrases in different calligraphy styles with lots of different papers and pens. This week in our prayer times we had been meditating on the fact that God gives us life. And at the start of our Sacred Space I got some dry bark from the garden and we were contemplating how God gives us life and without God we are like this dried up bark.

I then found this phrase that I liked and wanted to calligraphy in a book called the Wisdom of Solomon. This is a book in the apocrypha and although I don’t believe that it is inspired like the Bible, I think there are plenty of good thoughts there. As I drew these words I was struck by the fact that God made us to receive eternal life because we were made to be like him. Not that I have an immortal soul just because I am human but that God has given me this everlasting life by his grace.


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Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Lord’s Table

On the thirteen year old tape of David Mansell’s that I recently found, he is talking about the breaking of bread.

His basic message was that breaking of bread is not just as symbol but that it is a spiritual reality. God is really in it – although not chemically as though the bread and wine were Jesus literal flesh and blood – but by faith. As we eat bread and drink wine we receive realities not just symbols. It is the body of Christ. Jesus provides the food at his table and he is the food – his flesh is meat indeed and his blood is drink indeed.

His exhortation was to refocus church life so that the Lord’s Table is central rather than the pulpit. We are invited to be with him it is not for us to invite him to our meetings. He was encouraging us to see the breaking of bread as the primary reason for the church to get together rather than to see it as something that is tagged onto our meetings once in a while.

I don’t usually find it easy to listen and take notes of someone talking for a whole hour. But it was gripping stuff.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Bread of Life

At last I'm back on line! I'm uploading the last few blog entries that were made offline in my spiritual journal. This includes thoughts about last Sundays meeting. For a bit of fun I've included a relevant photo from flickr.

Last Sunday Barry Fitzpatrick - who has a pastoral role towards our church - was speaking on the bread of life from John 6. He was saying that Christ himself is the true and living bread and that nothing can be a substitute for him, not even bible-study, prayer or church! Though these are good things that we should take part in, they can get in the way of us experiencing the living bread from heaven. Just as bread was a staple food in the middle-east - no potatoes or even rice for them then - so Christ is the staple food for Christians today. Only this divine bread can be truly satisfying. And only this bread endures for all eternity. It was truly inspiring talk.

In the evening I was searching through some old tapes in the bottom of a drawer and found an old tape of David Mansell talking about the breaking of bread that I remember was excellent too. I'm really looking forward to listening to that.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Multi-Sensory Pentecost

Nettes and I set aside time regularly to be together with God. This often takes the form of what we call a “Sacred Space”. We create an atmosphere of calm (not known at any other time in our house!) using throws, cushions, relaxing music, incense, candles etc. They are very special times to us and we have had some great encounters with God through them.

Last night we used this time to celebrate the coming of the Spirit. We started, as we often do, by praying - in British Sign Language - for the Holy Spirit to come. Another aid to prayer which we often use is a labyrinth, printed on paper. Tracing the path into the middle, pausing to listen to God, and then bringing the line back out, helps focus our minds on who God is and what he wants from us. Last night, as we did this we began to contemplate the work of the Holy Spirit, and were reminded on the outward path of our task to take God’s message out into the world, as the disciples did after that first outpouring. I found it strangely exhilarating. We also made fans and used them together with poetic liturgy to reflect on the wind of the Holy Spirit.

But the climax of the night was melting ice cubes – in which we had embedded chains – over a candle. We were praying for God to melt our hearts preparing us to receive his power. Melting the ice was slower and trickier than we thought it was going to be. It was a powerful image of God’s patience and gentleness. It reflected the persistence with which he works to enable us to see his power in our lives. We talked about what his empowering means to us and how we limit it. Finally, we broke bread, anointed each other and asked God for this empowering.

Over an hour had passed. It was very late but, as always when we have these times, the hour had flown by. Why do we so often think spending time with God is hard?

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

23rd Psalm

We've just been discussing Psalm 23 in our small group bible study. We discovered a pattern that most of the psalms follow. We talked about how God can renew our souls as we sit silently in his presence. But what was really striking was walking through the dark valley. We saw that difficult situations are often the pivotal in the psalms. It isn’t until we go through it that a lot of the things in the psalm make much sense. Until then they can sound a bit like pat answers of happy-clappy people. After going through the time when we might rail at God, God leads us back to a second naivety. God is not just with us when we are happy; God is with us now in the middle of the problems. It is not that we can fulfil God’s purposes when we overcome the circumstances. Overcoming the circumstances is what the Christian life is all about. It is in the middle of this that we can know eternal life – a quality of life that we experience now as we deal with the dark valley of difficulties.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006


I really enjoyed taking notes from Anna’s talk this morning at church on what it means to be born again. I find that some talks produce more questions than answers – which, I hasten to add - I don’t think is a bad thing at all. The term born again was used by Jesus when speaking to one Pharisee privately who unlike the others was obviously a spiritual seeker. The Pharisees were hypocrites, judgemental, arrogant and narrow-minded. Perhaps today that is this how people sees ‘born again’ Christians? May be the term ‘born again’ has comes to represent all that some people loathe and fear in the same way the word Pharisee has?

But how would Nicodemus have understood the term? Anna discussed this well. She explained that born of the Spirit means our spirit is reborn… when we are most in sync with the Spirit we are most fulfilled… Jesus is the mediator for us in this experience… God is not monotheistic alone... Brilliant!

Yet I am left wondering to what extent we should understand ‘born again’ to refer to a process rather than a crisis. A journey rather than a destination? Perhaps conversations are more important than conversions after all?

Just a thought.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006


Communication problems can be frustrating! In all organisations communication is an important key to getting things done whether its college or some other workplace, church or any organisation. I was recently teaching my access class about two major communication patterns in group dynamics. Some organisations to some extent restrict there communication to hierarchies. So messages are passed down in the form of instructions and up in the form of reporting back. But it is easy to miss people leaving them disgruntled. But more recent wisdom is seeing the value of another pattern – one in which everyone is encouraged to communicate with everyone else. This is increasingly becoming practical with email. I think this must be the way forward.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

School Prayers

Callie has been accepted in the Nursery of a school just round the corner from us. We’ve been searching through Ofsted reports, prospectuses and websites but eventually thought the school nearest her was the best choice. One interesting fact about living in Birmingham is that it is so multi-cultural. So it’s not surprising that the valuing of each other's culture is given a high priority in the school. Great! But in England all school children take part in a daily act of collective worship. Will our multi-cultural locality mean that the worship is not as Christian as in some areas? In the school where Callie will be going there is collective worship in the classrooms three times a week. And during their time there the children also have the opportunity to visit places of worship not just a church building but also a mosque, a synagogue and the gurdwara. Now at home we have taught Callie about our Christian faith and read her Bible stories everyday. Of course we do have the choice to withdraw her from collective worship and not go on the trips. But could these experiences actually be good in helping her to develop her own robust faith? We’ll have to see.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Staying Alive

I found this article interesting. Its about Twelve Australian celebrities sharing their tips on how they have kept their energy and vitality into old age.

  • They eat low fat healthy diets.
  • They are pro-active in having health checks and prompt in taking any necessary action.
  • They watch their weight.
  • They are non-smokers.
  • They take regular exercise.
  • They keep their brain active.
  • They take care of their skin by staying out of hot sun and used sun-block.
  • They cope with stress both by taking exercise and using relaxation techniques.
  • They are early risers - grasping life with both hands.
  • They are active in the community in charity and voluntary work.
  • They refuse to look back on their lives with regrets that will only make them miserable.
  • They are always working on some project that is a challenge to them.
  • They all have some belief in something greater than themselves whether they call that God or not.
  • They are very positive in their attitude although they are honest in admitting negative thoughts and tough times they have dealt with them well.
  • They value their health.
  • They are committed to doing what they want to do.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Come Alive This Easter

Jesus came alive physcially so that we can come alive spiritually

This year Nettes and I organised our church's Easter service. We wanted to tell the story of Jesus going to the cross and rising again in some fresh and interesting ways. So as well as some standard readings and songs & hymns – like Hosanna (with the kids processing with streamers) – we also had two or three multi-sensory activities. For the ‘kids slot’ Nettes did a cookery demonstration of resurrection cookies. The ingredients tell the Easter story and the cookies are hollow representing the empty tomb. We also had a table at the front to which people brought items that depicted Jesus agonies on the cross such as a crown of thorns, an alarm clock to represent sleeplessness and a black box to represent horror. Nettes had made a cross for the table – not something we usually have in our church. But first we told the story through a PowerPoint display using paintings of scenes leading up to the cross with sound effects. We watched and listened to these with the lights out. The effect was stunning.

Later that day, as a family, Nettes & I had our Easter dinner of roast lamb and broke bread.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Weekend Away

Last weekend our church had a weekend away at Cloverley Hall with Ian Rossol from Together as our guest speaker. One Friday evening Nettes tells me he spoke about transparency. I was putting Callie to bed reading her the raising of Lazarus from her Bible story book.

On Saturday morning there was a choice of workshops. I went to the one on evangelism. Among other things we did a good role play that highlighted for me the importance of listening sensitively to other people’s views on God.

Ian Rossol then spoke about intimacy with God and how God wants to spend time with us. This was encouraging because our church recently did our second 24-hours-of-prayer. Ian also said, ‘There is a hurting world out there that is waiting for the church to emerge’.

In the evening we had a variety performance in which Nettes read the children’s book A Squash and a Squeeze with me acting out the old lady some kids being the animals. Callie was the hen.

On Sunday morning Ian spoke about on ‘Christ Jesus is riding forth in victory’ and how he is inviting us as a church together to join him. After lunch we had a time of breaking bread.

A good time was had by all.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Active Learning

I was recently told that I’ll be teaching just in the sixth form next year and not any of my adult classes. I’ve enjoyed teaching the Access course and my evening classes. But I’m taking this as an opportunity to rethink teaching and learning strategies, chase out the old and make a fresh start. I think the younger kids are a lot less tolerant of 40 minute talks where they are expected to take notes, even if they are encouraged to ask questions. The challenge is to develop a greater active learning approach – with a much greater variety of activities than just group discussions and feedback that I do. It is very easy to fall into one way of doing things. I think changing things around like this could be a good way to save me from this rut. So I’ve been trawling Amazon - as you can see from the links - for activities and ideas about teaching today I want to get to work redesigning my teaching with as many new ideas as I can. Also it’s an opportunity to really go to town with PowerPoint. But again I want new ideas: I don’t want to just by transfer my notes from handouts to screen but to go beyond bullet-points.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Good Samaritan

Today, Nettes and I were teaching Sunday School. We were looking at the story of the Good Samaritan. Rather than taking the angle about helping people, we focussed on prejudice. An important point of the story is that a Samaritan helped a Jew when Jews were prejudiced against Samaritans. Jesus was showing that loving your ‘neighbour’ doesn’t mean just loving those whom you are close to. It also means loving those who are different from you. So rather than judging someone because they belong to a different group, we should help them.

This may involve changing our attitudes towards that group of people. It starts with changing how we think, but it also means changing what we say and what we do, despite how we feel – a good lesson in itself. Last night, we had been looking at this video about how one teacher taught her class about prejudice. But in our class we simply role played how we can act differently to people. Finally, we draw pictures of different sorts of people – different races, people from different countries, old people, young people, disabled people – on a piece of paper with the verse ‘love your neighbour’ on it as a way of celebrating diversity.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Unhealthy Temptations

Looking through the newspapers I’m stuck by the fact that there are many temptations in the world. Illegal drugs lead to more crime. Anti-depressants as a quick fix can be addictive. Morning-after-pills are availably cheaply for teenaged girls. Affordable loans can just get us further into debt. It doesn’t really matter where you live this wasteland of temptation just seems everywhere. Is there no relief from it? Then there is our own anger, arrogance, pride and selfishness to content with...

One headline that stuck a deep chord in me said that the obesity epidemic is a 'bigger threat than terrorism'! The time has come for me to do something about this one: to eat more healthily and get more exercise. I’m going to take a ‘health walk’ once a week. And I’ve picked up some literature on looking after your heart. So I am looking at what I need to cut down on. It appears that saturated fat is a big one. I did order a book from Amazon on getting fit but it’s been delayed - drat it! Nevertheless I’m persevering with this health drive. After a few weeks of buckling down I trust that I’ll have a healthier lifestyle.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

New Clothes?

I keep thinking that I should really get some new clothes. Probably the most important quality about my clothes is that they must be comfortable. I do try to be smart – especially for college – but I rarely wear very formal clothes. Casual clothes are much more practical for the times I’m looking after Callie. I have one pair of trousers that I keep almost exclusively for college. But one of the reasons I don’t ware them around Callie is because they have zips on the pockets that she might catch herself on. I’ve never been one to search out designer labels. I think that sometime I should get something like a Trinny & Susannah makeover book for men. But really I’m not one for trying to look trendy I just want to be true to myself – not anti-conformist or anything I hope – just my own look, which must be said is fairly ordinary. I heard somewhere that’s the latest trend anyway! I think it is important to look after myself but what’s on the inside is more important to me that superficial looks. I just hope that somehow my good qualities make their way to the surface.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Chaos and Complexity

I was just browsing through amazon and found this book. In psychology there are a number of approaches or perspectives. The most recent one that I was aware of was the postmodern approach where the many, sometimes contradictory viewpoints are celebrated. Now here comes a new perspective that been influenced by ideas in physics that describe how systems have degrees of complexity and chaos. Mathematicians trying to explain the movement of particles came up with this idea. Some order is necessary for structures to exist but too much order means that these structures do not change and so cannot emerge as new structures. A certain amount of chaos means that new structures are produced that maybe better than the old ones. Now this idea is being applied to social systems: whole societies and smaller groups of people. So it fits in with social sciences such as sociology and social psychology. But now psychologists are seeing that these ideas can be applied to the structures in our thinking and behaviour too. It also appears to have some interesting therapeutic applications that have been investigated.

Sorry for such an intellectual post. But I just get excited about things like this!

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Miracles Today

I’ve got a sore throat now. Callie’s not feeling well this afternoon either. I was just thinking about my comment last week about Callie making a ‘miraculous’ recovery just before her train journey. It’s just something we tend to say but it probably undervalues the word. There are some interesting discussions of ‘divine healings’ especially with respect to AIDS at the BBC’s Africa blog. The misguided practice of telling people they are healed without any medical verification has lead to much criticism of such miracles such as this article in the Guardian. Yet there does clearly look like things are happening in Africa. As a psychologist I can see that a positive mental attitude can be beneficial for people with AIDS, yet as a Christian I do believe that God heals today. A few weeks ago Richard Dawkins was on Channel 4 questioning Christianity because pilgrims were healed at Lourdes in The Root of All Evil. It’s a pity this couldn’t be balanced with more on these healings of AIDS in Africa. Still in the meantime we have our sore throats to deal with. But talking about God healing AIDS puts it into perspective; doesn’t it?

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Friday, February 03, 2006


This week Nettes and Callie have been staying with a friend in Kent. On Sunday night Callie was really sick. It seems a long time since she’s been sick like that. I suppose babies are still building up their immune system so Callie was sick quite a few times in her first year. She slept a lot of Monday while I was at college but she wasn’t sick again. I feared that she wouldn’t be well enough to travel on Wednesday. But by then she’d made a miraculous recovery.

All this means that I had the day off on Wednesday, as I was my day to look after Callie, but she was travelling with her mum on the train. So I’ve been using the time to play with flickr – a new photo-sharing site that I’ve found. If you scroll down you can see some of the pictures that I’ve loaded onto flickr at the right of the blog. If you click on anyone of them you’ll be taken to my flickr page and you can start exploring my photos as well as others from around the world.

Anyway, I better get on with the housework. See you soon Nettes.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Minority Influence

This week I was looking at minority influence in one of my classes. We were discussing how an idea or opinion that at one time is only held by a few can many effect people and may even become a mainstream idea. For instance, this week door-to-door paper recycling facilities have appeared alongside our normal rubbish collections. It doesn’t seem long ago that environmental concerns like this were very fringy. The same could be said for buying fair trade or organic produce. Minority influence has real applications in many areas including my Christian faith.

The most important key to having that influence is consistency: across the minority, in the individual over time and between what we say and do. People may disagree with the minority only to agree later forgetting where the idea came from. But interestingly minorities’ influence is impaired if they appear too inflexible. Encouragingly a snowball effect can sometimes be seen – as the idea gains momentum more and more people are convinced. I think a good illustration of this is the film Twelve Angry Men where a jury is convinced one by one to turn to the view of the one juror who initially votes innocent.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


A few months ago Nettes and I took part in a communication workshop for couples. We used a method called Listen-Talk to discuss topics such as stress point, a life-change, a difference between us and an aspect that we appreciate in each other. At the end it was suggested that it would be a good idea to repeat this experience on a regular basis. The other night we finally got round to doing some Listen-Talks again. It was great.

A Listen-Talk involves each of us expressing how we feel about something. The trick is that we must listen carefully and not interrupt our partner. We then have to feedback what they have said while they listen to the feedback and correct any misunderstandings and add anything that has been missed. We then feed that back, and so on – until the fist person feels that they have been heard. It’s also a good idea to hold something like a cushion to designate whose feelings are being discussed.

Listen-Talk is very simple method that is a really good resource for our marriage. We just want to keep doing it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What is my Vocation?

A book that’s very precious to me is Richard Hallow’s Full Time Father. When Callie was born I was in a very fortunate situation of being able to choose how many hours I could teach at college being on a part time contract with the option of overtime – I just cut back on the overtime. If it wasn’t for this book I could easily think of only my paid employment as my proper job. Yes, teaching psychology is a vocation for me but then so is being a dad to Callie and also a husband to Nettes.

I love teaching psychology and I love being a father. I also think that in today’s world it is much more common to have a number of careers in a lifetime. For instance, I worked as a computer programmer at one time and I may do something different in the future. Perhaps I should think of my vocation as everything that I do including every part of my life, my faith and my interests, everything. Or maybe even just in being the person I am, living out what I believe in the many different roles that I play in life.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Psychology of Initiation

I was just looking at classroom activities on conformity. One of them outlines the behaviour of gang members. The suggestion is that one of the explanations for high levels of conformity could be to do with initiation ceremonies. For instance to join one Latino gang in LA you need to be beaten up by three other members for 13 seconds! Similarly aggressive initiation ceremonies from a Royal Marine commando base have been in the news not long ago. A bit like the behaviour you might see in the film Jarhead.

On a more positive note, I was interested to see Dr Hilary from GMTV recently talking about overcoming depression to life coach Lyn Blades. One tip was to initiate yourself into a new happier life by ‘baptising’ yourself in some big body of water. Rather than being an issue of conformity this could just be a private commitment but it was also said that surrounding yourself with happy people was a good idea too. So perhaps there are some parallels here. Whether it’s initiation into a gang or into a happy life the rite of initiation as well as others around you appear important in starting the adventure.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions as such. But I do think it is good sometimes to take stock of where we are and to set goals for ourselves. A new year is as good a time as any. One thing that we would like to do more of this year is being hospitable. I think all we mean by this is make a bit more of an effort to invite people round for meals. We haven’t really got the space to invite people to stay. I think it would be good to take chatting to people that step further and start to open up our home. Why not find out a bit more about people, learn from them and perhaps even be an influence on them? We’ll probably start with our own circle of friends, such as the church, but we don’t want to stop there. Nettes and Callie regularly go to a group works both as a playgroup and also a support and information group for people new to the area especially for refugees and asylum seekers. I think this would be a good area to expand our friendships into by way of our hospitality.